Except Luke wasn’t “changed for the worse”, IMHO.
I really don’t understand what people watched (and then I’ll promise I’ll shut up. And always remember “De gustibus non disputandum est”).
- Luke’s strenght was never his infallibility. Luke wasn’t Superman. Luke wasn’t a perfect hero. Never. He always made mistakes. While Leia was fighting in the Alliance, he was “playing” on Tatooine and he wanted to become a Rebel just because he wanted adventures. In Empire he makes a huge mistake that brings to him losing a hand and almost dying. In Return he almost falls to the Dark Side as soon as Vader taunts him. That’s why in my opinion TLJ’s Luke is in line with OT. What he did with Ben was a mistake, and the movie itself recognizes it as a mistake. Objection: “But he tried to redeem Vader. Why didn’t he do the same with Ben?” —> Well, of course because in this case he was responsible.
- Everyone loved The Mandalorian scene because “that’s the real Luke Skywalker”. Excuse me? In Empire, Yoda says that a Jedi uses the Force “for knowledge and defence”. That’s precisely what he does in TLJ, he projects not to kill but to protect the Resistance. THAT his the concretization of Luke’s arc. His scene in The Mandalorian actually builds on TLJ’s Luke. It mirrors Rogue One’s Vader scene, and Luke (unlike Ahsoka) doesn’t have any doubts about training Grogu. Luke is hot headed, ready to do everything to rebuild the Order. What I’m saying is that there’s only ONE Luke. A flawed hero who makes mistakes (in OT, in The Mandalorian, in TLJ) but always manages to learn from those mistakes. Yet almost everyone is like “I loved him in the Mandalorian because he’s a true jedi there (even though he acts almost like a Sith). But I hate TLJ because that’s not Luke (even though he makes a mistakes, learns from it and brings his arc to a conclusion by using the Force to protect others)”.
I’m sorry for this. I’ll delete it if it’s too much, lol.
The point in Return of the Jedi is that he overcame the temptation to the dark side. It’s the end of his arc, in the last movie. The intent wasn’t to have the audience think that confronting the Emperor and Vader was completely meaningless and that Luke would eventually fall to the dark side anyway. That would be dumb.
And, even though he made a lot of mistakes, his most consistent character traits are his care for his friends and his belief that others can be redeemed. Even if he did inevitably fail at something big like with Ben he wouldn’t try to kill Ben in his sleep or give up entirely and abandon everyone to destruction. You CAN tell a story like that even though it’s unsatisfying and depressing, but you have to do a lot more work than just having one moment completely reverse his character and his entire arc and explaining it as “he got really spooked.”